Narita San T. Meana
KRS Master’s Student
“I wanted to take transferrable skills from my past occupations and apply the knowledge, skills, and abilities to a career in vocational rehabilitation counseling that primarily serves persons with disabilities.”
Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Science
- MS, KRS: Rehab
How far along in the program are you?
I am in my third year and last semester of the program, scheduled to graduate in May 2018.
What drew you to the rehabilitation counseling program?
It took a combined 12 years as an Air Force officer and civil servant to make it to this point in my academic career. My pursuit for a profession in vocational rehabilitation counseling started with the idea that I should further serve others in a capacity that would bridge the gap between my background in kinesiology, massage therapy, and business management. Specifically, I wanted to take transferrable skills from my past occupations and apply the knowledge, skills, and abilities to a career in vocational rehabilitation counseling that primarily serves persons with disabilities.
Did the online format of the program factor into your decision?
One of the benefits of this program is that it can be taken from anywhere in the world. I am an avid traveler, so the flexibility to log on at any time and from anywhere in the world played a significant factor in my decision to apply to this program. Moreover, being able to connect with fellow students residing in different locations provides a more diverse educational experience to learn about different perspectives. Although I believe traditional classroom learning is the best way for me to learn, I definitely appreciate what the online platform of learning provides to students; and as a working student, the online format is the best option for obtaining my degree.
How has attending professional conferences impacted your learning?
Continued access to future conferences and professional development opportunities like the National Council on Rehabilitation Education (NCRE) conference will definitely provide me a better understanding of what is currently happening in the field. As I learned quickly, events like the NCRE conference I attended in Arlington, Virginia in October 2017 are a great place to connect and network with other graduate/doctoral students, faculty, educators, administrators, and professionals globally. As future vocational rehabilitation counselors, these experiences provide students with information on current trends, including policy, legislation, and practical strategies that may help practitioners in the field.
What does it mean for you to be a vocational rehabilitation counselor?
Due to my previous limited knowledge of this profession, I wanted to immerse myself in as many experiences to gain an understanding of what it means to be a vocational rehabilitation counselor. Over the last three semesters of this program, I had the unique opportunity to serve as a counselor-in-training at three different rehabilitation counseling settings: the Veterans Administration Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment office where I worked with Veterans with service-connected disabilities; the Hawai‛i State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Honolulu office where I worked with persons with a variety of disabilities, including mental health, intellectual, and developmental disabilities; and presently, Vocational Management Consultants, Inc. where I am completing my final semester working with injured workers under Worker’s Compensation. Collectively, I have discovered so many things about who I am as a student, as a counselor, and as a person. My unique pathway to personal and professional growth and self-discovery has pushed me further in serving others and finding a purpose larger than myself.
Which skills or experiences obtained through this program are the most important to you?
The actual face-to-face contact when meeting with clients has been the most gratifying and valuable experience. The ability to connect with a client while remaining unbiased and objective in order to help them obtain their vocational goals is what makes this profession distinct from others I have served in the past. As with any profession, the ability to manage time, set boundaries, and empathize with our clients are some of the many skills that come with practice, but these have been the most valuable in my journey towards obtaining my degree.
What advice would you give current or prospective students about this program?
“It almost seems impossible until it’s done” (Nelson Mandela). This quote has carried me through the last three years of graduate school. My words of advice would be to enjoy the process of being a graduate student, more so, rehabilitation counselors-in-training. Graduate school can be challenging, but I found it to be well worth the adventure. Everything I have learned throughout the course of this program is ultimately making sense at the end. Faculty does a great job tying in theory with practice in all courses so that we are able to apply what we learn while actively working with clients at various practicum and internship sites. One of the greatest lessons learned through this program that current and prospective students may experience is the challenge to discover things about yourself that put us outside of our comfort zones. In the words of our program director, Dr. Kat Yamamoto, “Trust the process…it’s all about the journey!” More importantly, trust the people who support you—faculty, fellow students, and yourself!